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I received a couple of critical comments about my last posting from Toby at the Diva Marketing Blog and Joel at the Restaurant Marketing Blog. Toby asked, "…if Macy can not catapult customer service to a point of difference, where would you suggest they concentrate their efforts?" Joel said, "It’s always tough when gurus make critical comments without offering suggestions."

Hey, you’re both are right about that. I should have given some examples (although I’ve never been accused of being "guru" before…I prefer "Legend in my own mind").

My main point was that Macy’s was offering a broad promise on delivering outstanding customer service — something they’ve never done before (at least not in the Seattle area). So (1) I’m skeptical they can deliver and (2) they’re making essentially the same promise against an already established brand.

I do think Macy’s needs to stake a position in the customer’s mind. When we think of Nordstrom, we automatically think of customer service. Bloomingdales says they provide "exclusive merchandise, customized services, and alternative shopping venues." When we think of Macy’s, what do we think of? I don’t think of anything.

I doubt they can compete on price, so some better defined product or service proposition might be in order. Some quick thoughts:

  • Your "local" department store (still carry national brands but also showcase local brands and designers). Urban Outfitters does this in their stores (even allowing employees to help design the stores).
  • Create a true "stores-within-a-store" experience like Harrods in London. Their slogan is "Everything for Everybody Everywhere," and that’s literally true. Just ask anyone who’s walked through. But Harrods isn’t in the US, so it’s a stealable idea.
  • Establish & claim to be the leader in specialized customer services. For example, create a "Concierge for Guys." Advertise you’ll help guys like me to find the exact right gift for Kay and Kelly. Sure, everybody has personal shoppers, but I’ll bet most guys don’t know that. Repackaging a common service makes it uncommon and tough to copy.

Just some quick ideas. Anybody got some others?